The major markets across Asia-Pacific region are trading in positive territory on Thursday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended higher despite concerns over corporate earnings, on optimism that the economy, having seen a slowdown in the downward momentum, will turn direction and start recovering earlier than expected. A deal announced in the housing sector and positive reaction to a speculation over the U.S. Treasury extending the TARP funding to the insurance sector helped the U.S. markets overlook the still-fluid economic conditions.
Positive news from Japan that the government is planning to announce another stimulus package equivalent to $154 billion to revive the economy also lifted sentiment.
On Wednesday, the Dow closed up 47.55 points or 0.6% at 7,837, the Nasdaq closed up 29.05 points or 1.9% at 1,591 and the S&P 500 closed up 9.61 points or 1.2% at 825.16.
In Asian trading, crude oil is currently up $0.53 at $49.91 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed up $0.23 at $49.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday, after an Energy Information Administration data revealed a smaller-than-expected build in crude oil stockpiles from last week.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index, having opened higher at 8,665 compared to its previous close of 8,595, is currently trading at 8,812, up 216.84 points, and the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues is gaining 15.24 points to 831.
On the economic front, core machine orders in Japan unexpectedly rose 1.4% in February compared to the previous month, the government said on Thursday, marking the first increase in five months. That compares to analysts' expectations for a 6.9% decline after the 3.2% fall in the previous month. On an annual basis, core machine orders fell 30.1% - beating forecasts for a 36.7% decline after the 39.5% fall a month earlier.
The Government is expected to announce a stimulus package equivalent to 15.4 trillion yen or US$154 billion to revive the economy
Automakers are trading higher on hopes of a recovery in the global economy. Honda Motor is rising 0.91%, Isuzu Motors is gaining 7.94%, and Toyota Motor is advancing 1.87%.
Among the major exporters, Canon is gaining 5.12%, Sony is advancing 5.65% and Sharp is rising 7.87%. Trading houses are also advancing. Mitsubishi Corp. is moving up 3.59%, Sumitomo Corp. is gaining 1.67% and Itochu is adding 3.32%.
Oil stocks are trading in positive territory. Inpex is adding 0.57%, Showa Shell is gaining 0.79%, and Nippon Oil is edging up 0.22%.
Financials are also gaining. Mitsubishi UFJ is rising 0.61%, Mizuho Financial is advancing 1.51%, Sumitomo Mitsui is adding 0.87% and Resona Holdings is gaining 1.22%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is up 2.28%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is gaining 33.6 points to 3,653, and the broader All Ordinaries index is up 33.7 points t 3,601.
On the economic front, Australia's jobless rate jumped 0.5 percentage points to a seasonally adjusted 5.7% in March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said earlier in the day, hitting a five-year high. That was higher than analyst expectations for a jobless rate of 5.5% after 5.2% in February. The bureau also reported that the number of employed Australians decreased by a greater-than-expected 34,700 to 10,771,800. Most economists had forecast an overall job loss of 25,000.
Bank stocks are trading mixed. Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up 0.60%, investment bank Macquarie Group is advancing 2.85% and ANZ Banking Group is unchanged from previous close, but National Australia Bank is losing 2.04% and Westpac is falling 1.50%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is adding 0.88%, and Rio Tinto is gaining 0.68%. Gold miners are trading weak. Lihir Gold is losing 0.66%, Sino Gold is dropping 2.12%, and Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.45%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside is gaining 0.34%, and Oil Search is edging up 0.77%, but Santos is edging down 0.06%.
In the retail sector, David Jones is gaining 2.45%, and Woolworths is edging up 0.06%. However, Wesframers is trading in negative territory, losing 0.53%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened higher at 14,678, compared to its previous close of 14,475, and is presently trading at 14,808, up 333.35 points, or 2.3%.
Bank stocks are advancing. HSBC Holdings is gaining 3.21%, Hang Seng Bank is advancing 2.00%, Bank of Communications is rising 2.92%, Bank of China is adding 2.97% and Bank of East Asia is moving up 2.28%. Other banks are also trading in positive territory.
Insurance stocks are trading higher. Ping An is rising 6.37% and China Life is adding 2.07%.
Among property stocks, Henderson Land is gaining 1.97%, Wharf Holdings is advancing 4.90%, SHK Properties is edging up 0.39%, New World Development is adding 2.60% and Hang Lung Property is rising 2.60%.
Resource stocks are also advancing. Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, is rising 3.43%, CNOOC is gaining 1.78% and PetroChina is adding 1.89%.
Among China-related stocks, China Resources is edging up 0.17%, and China Overseas s gaining 4.01%, but China Mercantile Holdings is losing 3.38%
The benchmark KOSPI Index opened Thursday's session at 1,274, higher than its previous close of 1,1262, and is currently trading at 1,299, up 2.92% or 36.86 points.
On the economic front, the central bank of South Korea kept the 7-day repo rate unchanged at 2.0% at the conclusion of the monthly policy meeting. The Bank stated the fall in economic activity has somewhat moderated of late. Analysts were anticipating the rates to be kept unchanged.
Meanwhile, Korea Credit Guarantee Fund, the state-run credit guarantee agency, in a statement revealed that in an effort to ease credit crunch, it is planning to sell up to 1 trillion won, equivalent to $475 million, in debts backed by a pool of bonds issued by smaller companies in the country with relatively low ratings.
Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 1.80%. Among the other technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is losing 5%, but LG Electronics is advancing 2.32%, and LG Display is gaining 1.31%.
Financials are trading higher. KB Financial Group is advancing 2.83%, Shinhan Financial is gaining 2.54% and Woori Finance is rising 5.43%.
Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is adding 0.25%, Samsung Heavy Industries is advancing 2.60% and Daewoo Shipping is gaining 2.29%.
In the auto space, Hyundai Motor is rising 4.32%, and Kia Motor is gaining 2.73%. However, Ssangyong Motor, which announced a restructuring plan yesterday, is down 5.75%
Among oil-related stocks, S-Oil is gaining 2.57% and SK Holdings is adding up 1.32%
Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index is gaining 3.40 points, or 0.14% to 2,351, Singapore' Strait Times Index is gaining 36.18 points, or 2.03% to 1,820 and Taiwan's Weighted index is up 183.22 points, or 3.37% at 5,627.
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